This time, we’re looking at the percentage of civil cases in which each of the Justices who served during the years 2010-2020 voted with the majority. Although the Court’s unanimity rate has been fairly steady with the exception of a brief two-year dip during this period, this will help illuminate which Justices drove any disagreement on the Court.
In the Table below, we report year-by-year majority voting rates for Chief Justice Anne Burke and Justices Garman, Freeman, Neville, Kilbride and Carter. The lowest majority rates for 2010 were Chief Justice Burke and Justice Freeman, but both were quite high – voting with the majority 87.5% of the time. The numbers were similar in 2011 – Justices Freeman and Kilbride were at 89.19% and 85.71%, respectively.
In 2012, the unanimity rate took a sudden dip. The chart suggests that Justice Kilbride was the main driver of the dip, given that his majority voting rate dropped from 85.71% in 2011 to 74.36% in 2012. The following year, Justice Kilbride was at 75.76%, but Chief Justice Burke had dropped too – to 81.25%. By 2014, the Chief Justice and Justices Freeman and Kilbride were all back into the upper eighties, and the overall unanimity rate corrected as a result. In 2015, both the Chief Justice and Justice Garman were in the nineties, Justice Freeman was in the high eighties and Justice Kilbride was at 84.09%. By 2017, the Chief Justice and Justices Freeman and Kilbride were all in the nineties and Justice Garman voted with the majority 100% of the time. In 2018, Justice Kilbride was in the high eighties, Chief Justice Burke and Justice Garman were both at 95.45% and Justice Freeman was at 100%. Over the past two years, each of these Justices has voted with the majority in at least nine of every ten civil cases.
We report five more Justices – Justices Thomas, Michael Burke, Karmeier, Fitzgerald and Theis – in the final Table. Each of these Justices were nearly always in the majority throughout the period. In 2010, three of four were at a majority voting rate of 100%. In 2011, Justices Thomas, Karmeier and Theis were all above 97%. The following year, Justices Thomas and Karmeier were a bit over 89%, and Justice Theis was at 92.31%. In 2013, Justice Karmeier dropped down to 88 and change, while both Justice Thomas and Justice Theis were over 90. (These numbers for 2012 and 2013 confirm our earlier data about what helped drive down the unanimity rate). In 2014, Justices Thomas and Karmeier were over 90% and Justice Theis was slightly under. From 2015 through 2017, all three Justices were over 90% majority voting. In 2018, Justices Thomas and Theis were over 95% and Justice Karmeier fell to 86.36%. In 2019, Justices Thomas and Karmeier were both in the nineties and it was Justice Theis who dropped slightly to 88.24%. Last year, Justice Karmeier was in the majority 96.67% of the time, Justice Theis 96.88% and Justice Michael Burke was in the majority 94.74% of the time. Prior to his retirement, Justice Thomas voted with the majority in 100% of civil cases.
Join us back here next time when we’ll begin our review of the criminal case data.